A Sign of Love

Facemask

We are in the midst of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the world. We are currently doing all we can to stop the spread of the virus. This includes lockdowns and social distancing and face masks.

Historically, face masks have been used as means to prevent the getting the disease. However, due to the nature of COVID-19, this has changed. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that studies have revealed that “a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html).

This means that we all need to change our perspective on face masks. Face masks are not just for those who want to prevent sickness. Face masks are also for those who might be sick and who might transmit COVID-19. Thus, “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission” (ibid).

For face masks to be accepted in our culture, we need to begin understanding that those in public with face masks on are not trying to protect themselves, but are actually trying to protect others. In this way, they are actually showing love to all of us. Face masks are a sign of live.

This is similar to the cross of Christ. The cross was an emblem of sin and shame (Hebrews 12:2). Yet, Jesus went to the cross as an act of love for us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It was upon the cross that Jesus “bore our sins in his body” (1 Peter 2:24).

For those who don’t believe in Jesus, they need to change their perspective about the cross. It’s not a sign of sin and shame. It’s a sign of love.

Heart Transplant

HeartTranplant

I have a friend who was born with a heart defect. His life has been filled with hospital visits and surgeries and medicine. In recent days, things have turned for the worst. He is now on the heart transplant list. In order to live, he needs a new heart. He is in the hospital now and won’t be coming home unless he receives a new heart.

It has been interesting to pray for my friend, because a new heart will only come through the death of another. He needs a new heart to live. But this heart can only come when another dies. So how do you pray? Do you pray for someone else to die so that my friend can live?

This is a great picture of the gospel. We all are born with bad hearts. We need new hearts. But a new heart can only come through the death of another. The good news is this: Jesus died to give us a new heart. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). The death of Jesus gave us a new heart with new desires.

This is what the prophesy of Ezekiel foretold. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). We all need new hearts.

 

Let God Work

Snow1

Above is a picture of my driveway shortly after I shoveled the snow that fell last night. It looks like I didn’t do such a good job, as there are patches of snow still left on the driveway. Given the time (and effort), I could have scrapped the driveway clean, so that no snow would remain. However, today is one of those cold, sunny days in the Midwest where the sun sparkles off the snow to create a beautiful scene. I know that the sun on my black driveway will melt the snow and do a far better job clearing away the snow that I will ever do. Here’s a picture of my driveway I took about two hours later.

Snow2

Notice how the sun has done it’s work! My driveway is practically snow free! Look closely and you can see the water draining down the driveway. By the end of the day, I’m sure that all of the snow will be gone, without me lifting a finger. The lesson is clear: let the sun do the work.

There are many times in this life when we try to do all the work ourselves, as if all depended upon our effort. But God is working in our lives far more than any of us realize. It is better (and more efficient) (and more glorifying to God) to let God do His work. Sometimes we simply need to “be still, and know that [He] is God” (Psalm 46:10).

When the Egyptians were pursuing Israel by the Red Sea, Moses said, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today. … The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13, 14). Jesus said, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:31, 32). When worried come your way, “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Give your cares and concerns to God and let Him work.

 

A Cure for Anxiety

Millions of Americans suffer from all types of anxiety disorders. Physicians have come up with names for them. There is the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). There is Panic Disorder. There is Social Anxiety Disorder. The Bible doesn’t mention any of these disorders by name. But, it does have a name for all of them. It is called, “sin.”

Scientists and doctors may identify all sorts of disorders surrounding anxiety, but a rose by any other name is still a rose. And anxiety by any other name, whether it be Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Panic Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Social Anxiety Disorder … is still anxiety. And the Bible calls it sin. It is wrong. It ought not to be characteristic of the people of God.

Over and over and over and over again, the Bible calls us not to be anxious. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “do not be worried” on four different occasions (Matt. 6:25, 27, 31, 34). Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.” Isaiah 35:4, “Say to those with an anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not.” Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing.”

Anytime that we are anxious, we are in sin. Anytime that we worry, we are in sin. And I know how easy it is to sin in this way. And I know how pervasive it is among Christians. Those sins that are so common among us, that we accept them believing that it’s OK to sin in this way. But, it’s not. Jerry Bridges identifies the sin of anxiety as one of those “Respectable Sins” that the church has accepted, rather than dealing with (Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins [Colorado Springs: NavPress], chapter 8).

Here is a simple antidote to suffering: (1) Say your prayers and (2) Know He cares. This is what Peter tells us to do. “Casting all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We cast our anxieties upon Him by praying, by letting God know of our concerns, by seeking His help. We can have confidence that the Lord will help us, because He cares for us. He not only knows of our anxieties, but is concerned for our well-being. He will help us in our weaknesses.

So, … say your prayers and know He cares.

The Cost of Freedom

The freedom that we enjoy in America came at a cost. It came at the cost of many soldiers in the War of Independence.  It came at the cost of many soldiers in the Civil War and in both World Wars. You can add other wars to this list as well: the Mexican-American War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and even the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some way or another, all of these wars have helped to support the freedom that we now enjoy.

On this Memorial Day, let us remember the spiritual freedom that we have in Christ. It came at the cost of the death of the Son of God.

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

American Media

While in Nepal recently, I spoke with a pastor who was reflecting upon the state of marriages in the church. He said, “American media has done much to help our Christian marriages.” Such a statement may cause some of you to be aghast. How can that be? If anything, American media is out to undo the family and marriages. In great measure the roles played on television and in the movies is toward sinful living and risque behavior. How has it done much to help marriage?

The answer to this question comes in the core of marriage in a Hindu culture. When a man and a woman are married, the woman confesses that her husband is her god. She must serve him and worship him. This allows the husbands to trounce their wives.  In Hindu lands wives become their husband’s slave. They cook. They clean. They carry the heavy loads. They care for the children. The man is out doing whatever he pleases. The curse of Genesis 3:16 is fully realized, “Your desire will be against your husband, and he shall rule over you” (ESV marginal reading).

But, in American media, the equality of the sexes come through. It is written into our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal.” Now, we don’t always live that out (the racial tensions in our country are indicative of this). But, it’s what we say we believe. And, it is deeply rooted in American culture and deeply rooted in the Bible.  Peter says that wives are “fellow heirs of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). That’s not to eliminate role distinctions in marriage, which are clear in the Bible. But, it is to eliminate all demeaning of wives. Thus, when Christians in a Hindu culture see this, they begin to see how reasonable and helpful it is to elevate that status of a wife.

Yet, this same pastor told me that “American media has done much to bring sexual immorality into our country.” As American media carries its way into a culture, immorality increases. When you tie this with the fact that American has made abortion free in Nepal due to our president’s wishes, sex is free and without consequences (or so they think). In the end this will surely do much harm.

Such is the tale being told about American media that is exported to other countries.

“I Wish I Had Done More.”

Joe Paterno, legendary football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was buried this afternoon.  For 61 years, he coached at Penn State, the first 15 of which was as an assistant coach. Through his many years, he built a solid reputation for being a man of integrity.  He placed a high emphasis upon moral conduct and strongly pushed his players to perform well in the classroom.  Through Paterno’s efforts, the Penn State football program built a reputation for doing things the honorable way. He and his wife gave much back to the university he served, even giving $4 million to the school’s library. Oh, and by the way, he won more games than any other Division I coach in history (409 wins).

Yet, one blight on Paterno’s character will always be remembered and will always shadow over his innumerable accomplishments.  One of his long-time assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was exposed as a child sexual offender. Ten years before the arrest, Paterno had been told of Sandusky’s shameful activities and reported them to the authorities at the university.  But, he did nothing to pursue it any further.  Paterno fulfilled his legal requirements, but he failed in his moral requirements of stepping in to stop this wretched activity. When things came to public light, Joe Paterno would say in a statement, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” A few hours later, he was fired from his coaching post.

Such will be the sentiment of many who come to the end of their lives. They will wish that they had done more. God’s standard for life is perfection. Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It’s a standard that none of us will ever be able to maintain.  We are weak, fallen creatures. Our only hope is for one to be perfect in our place. Such was Jesus. He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). The good news is that “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24). We simply need to trust in Him, and His perfection becomes ours!

People will always disappoint us

Joe Paterno was the head coach of Penn State for 46 years, longer than any college football coach. He built a perennial winner, winning the national championship on two occasions (1982 and 1986). His coaching records are too numerous here to count.

He was the model of integrity, always striving after excellence. His motto, “Success with Honor” tells the whole story. He impacted many with his life. He gave millions back to Penn State to help support the school. I have heard him called, “The Most Powerful Man in Pennsylvania” (not by actual power, but by power of influence).

But it all came crashing down when the child-sex abuse scandal involving ex-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky came to light. He knew about the abuse, but turned a blind eye. His legacy is forever tarnished.

It teaches us a good lesson:  the best of men are men at best. People will always disappoint us. May we learn this lesson well.

But, there is one who will never disappoint–the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures say, “He who believes in Him will not be disappointed” (1 Peter 2:6).

Dying by the Sword

In February 2011, revolution broke out in Libya, eventually leading the country into a civil war. In March, NATO military stepped in. By August, Tripoli was seized and Muammar Gaddafi went into hiding. He was killed yesterday (October 20, 2011) as he tried to flee his hometown of Sirte. His convoy was struck down by a predator drone and French fighter jet. Details are sketchy, but reports indicate that Gaddafi was eventually killed by a bullet wound to the head from ground forces.

I’m not an expert on foreign affairs, that’s for sure. However, Gaddafi’s death is a good reminder to us that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). His 42 year reign in Libya was marked by brutality and oppression. His death is a fitting end to a tyrannical leader.

This is what made the death of Jesus so unjust. He didn’t “live by the sword” and yet He “died by the sword.” Jesus was peace-loving and peace-giving. He healed the sick and raised the dead and fed the hungry. Yet, Jesus died a brutal death on a cross outside of Jerusalem. Why? He died for our sins. The righteous died for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18). Praise be to God.

Hotel Rooms

I have been to a number of very nice hotel rooms in my life. I have enjoyed them, but I don’t treat them as my home. For instance, if I don’t like the carpet color or the lamp or the window treatment, I don’t go down to Home Depot and purchase a replacement. Why? Because it’s not my home. It’s only a temporary room for me.

Similarly, believers in Christ aren’t at home here upon the earth. Peter says that we are “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11) here upon the earth. Paul said that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). May we live like we know where our true home is.